How to Experience Artworks
A common misconception about art is that it is for the wealthy and requires a body of knowledge and a set of language skills to understand and appreciate it. For many people, art can be intimidating as sometimes people may feel they do not have the knowledge about the artworks and therefore cannot participate in the discussion or extract meaning from the artworks themselves. However, one of the greatest things about art is that it transcends language and culture and has the ability to include all types of people through creative expression. There are many ways in which one can interact with art and you don’t need to be an expert to be moved by a piece and understand it.
Artists have developed ways to create movement, emotion and dreamlike imagery that have captured their audiences for centuries. It is our job to return the favour. What tools do we need to inspect a piece of art properly in order to give it the respect that it deserves? There is no right answer for how one should appreciate and interact with art. However, dissecting artworks in stages can help you better appreciate what the artist has presented to you.
What do you see?
Firstly, art can have the ability to interact with multiple senses. It is therefore important not to rush through an artwork or inspect it purely on a visual level. Take your time. Think about what’s going on in the artwork. Take note of the visuals. What colours is the artist using? Is there something here that grasps your attention? What did you miss when you first looked at it? This phase is crucial as it allows you to spend time with the artwork and unwrap your layers of perception. This can also allow you to move beyond your initial first glance to experiencing an emotional reaction to an artwork you otherwise may not have thought twice about.
How does it make you feel?
Now that we’ve taken in the visual, we can begin to understand our individual response to the artwork. This phase is our personal favourite. If you feel elated looking at a piece, think about why. If you feel angry or uncomfortable, why? Everybody interacts with art differently. Works of art shift from belonging to the artist to becoming a set of unique interactions, which are experienced by all the viewers. Bruce Pashak, a local Vancouver artist, describes his art as “riddles that you might try to puzzle out but never need to solve”. Once we accept that art doesn’t always have a goal or a limited meaning we can begin to appreciate our own understanding and emotional reaction to the art itself.
How was this piece made?
Once you take a step back from the artwork as a whole you’ll find yourself wondering how it was put together. This will allow you to have a better understanding of the methods and techniques used by the artist. Spend time examining brush strokes; the artist’s interplay between the real and surreal elements of the artwork; how the artist uses different materials throughout the artwork and how these contrasting techniques affect the artwork as a whole. This artwork didn’t just emerge onto a canvas already multidimensional and emotionally evocative. The art becomes what it is through a complex set of processes. These processes are essential to the development of the artwork and can help you feel the artist’s presence amongst the artwork.
We encourage you to have an open mind when looking at art. We strongly recommend that you step out of your comfort zone and challenge your traditional method for appreciating art. If you take the time to inspect each piece of art from different angles, we are confident you will have a much deeper experience and appreciation of the artwork.